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PBS News Hour

News/Business. Gwen Ifill, Judy Woodruff, Jeffrey Brown. (2011) (CC) (Stereo)

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Syria 16, Brown 12, Montana 12, United States 11, Us 7, U.s. 6, Hutchison 5, Kepler 4, Borucki 4, Navigable 4, Nasa 4, Washington 4, Abu Jamal 3, Abc 3, Marcia Coyle 3, Kay Bailey Hutchison 3, Sherrod Brown 3, Obama 3, Rob Stein 3, Damascus 3,
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  PBS    PBS News Hour    News/Business. Gwen Ifill, Judy  
   Woodruff, Jeffrey Brown.  (2011)  (CC) (Stereo)  

    December 7, 2011
    6:00 - 7:00pm PST  

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captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> warner: the nation's health secretary stopped a morning-after pill from being sold over the counter to girls younger than age 17. good evening, i'm judy wood rough. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. on the latest tonight, the latest on a high level dispute over restricting the sale of the emergency contraceptive. and rob stein of the "washington post." >> woodruff: then we debate the stalemate over the consumer financial watchdog agency with two senators-- ohio democrat sherrod brown and texas republican kay bailey hutchison. >> brown: gwen ifill talks to marcia coyle from the "national law journal" over who owns montana's rivers.
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>> woodruff: we update the growing tensions in syria with a surprising denial of president assad that he ordered a deadly crackdown on protesters. >> brown: and censer michels reports on the discovery of a so called goldilocks planet. not too hold, not too cold, maybe just right to support life. >> it will be hard to learn too much more about the potentially habitable planets any time soon since it's 600 light years away. >> woodruff: that's all ahead on tonight's naur. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: ♪ ♪ moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us.
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and by the alfred p. sloan foundation. supporting science, technology, and improved economic performance and financial literacy in the 21st century. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> brown: the secretary of health and human services has waded into the politically charged issue of birth control for younger girls. in a very public and high-level disagreement, kathleen sebelius today blocked the food and drug
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administration from allowing girls under 17 to buy the plan "b" morning-after pill without a prescription. for the details, we're joined by rob stein covering the issue for the "washington post." rob, so fill in what's happened here. this is the h.h.s. secretary overruling her own f.d.a. >> right. this was a big surprise. a real shock. nobody knew what the f.d.a. was going to do but nobody expected the secretary of health and human services to overturn the decision by the f.d.a. what happened was the f.d.a. commissioner margaret hamberg reviewed the evidence and said, yeah, it was okay to approve this company's request to sell plan "b" on any stores and grocery stores, drugstores, right next condoms or sperm sides. but secretary sebelius stepped in and said no, i don't agree that decision. >> brown: just remind us the state of play here. plan "b" has been approved for use without prescription by women over 17, right? so what was this about?
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>> well, any woman who's 17 years old or older can walk into a pharmacy and buy plan "b" without a prescription but they have to prove that... their age to the pharmacist. but anybody younger than that still has to get a prescription and women's health advocates, family planning advocates hoped to make it easer to-to-get so that any women of any age could get it brout without prescription a prescription. it would make it easier to prevent unwanted pregnancy. >> brown: so that means it's not sold just out there on the shelves. it's behind the counter. >> right. and what often happens is you'll have a situation where, you know, a woman has unprotected sex or has a problem with a condom or maybe seven a rape victim in the middle of the night or the weekend and there's a panic about the what to do about it. with this drug, it's very important you take it within the first 72 hours. that's the period of time which it's most effective. >> brown: what was the reasoning by secretary sebelius in blocking the change? >> you know, she basically said
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that she just didn't feel that there was enough conclusive evidence to show it could be used safely by girls of any age and she specifically cited that girls as young as 11 years old can get pregnant and she didn't feel comfortable that there was enough evidence that young girlsing girls 11, 12 years old could handle this on their own. >> brown: this is a highly charged political and cultural issue. what kind of pressures were being brought to bear on all health officials in this case? >> there was a lot of opposition to relaxing the restrictions on plan "b." a lot of conservative activists groups, u.s. conference of catholic bishops. a lot of groups like that were very much opposed to it. they said they thought it was on faith and that young girls and women could not use it safely. they were worried about it encouraging sexual activity. they were worried that by skipping a doctor's visit that the girls who had s.t.d.s
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wouldn't be picked up. >> and when the decision came out today plenty of reaction from supporters of it including, i saw, former f.d.a. official susan wood suggesting that politics had overruled science here. >> the proponents of easing restrictions are irate. they're really surprised and upset because they thought that this was... this administration was kind of an administration that would not let politics get in the way of a scientific decision. you mentioned susan wood, she resigned from the f.d.a. under the bush administration but that administration has delayed a similar easing of restrictions and so people are very upset on that side. >> brown: briefly, rob, is there any next step here beyond the political rekar cushions? is there more to come on the health side or policy side? >> well, there's still a lawsuit pending against the f.d.a. one of the activist groups filed a lawsuit many years ago because of the delays in easing the restrictions and there's a hearing scheduled for december
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13 on a contempt of court motion against the f.d.a. for failing to ease restrictions. it will be interesting to see what happens there. the judge had been very critical about the idea that politics might be interfering with the scientific decision. >> brown: rob stein of the "washington post," thanks very much. >> thanks for having me. >> woodruff: still to come on the newshour, the partisan divide over the consumer protection agency. the arguments over who owns montana's rivers. the growing pressure on syria's president assad. and the discovery of a possibly earth-like planet. but first the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: the former democratic governor of illinois, rod blagojevich, was sentenced to 14 years in prison for corruption. he'd been convicted of trying to sell the appointment to president obama's senate seat, among other things, before a federal judge handed down the sentence in chicago blagojevich apologized for his actions for the first time. he said he was unbelievably sorry and that he'd made terrible mistakes. later he spoke briefly to reporters with his wife alongside.
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>> this is a time to be strong, this is a time to fight through adversity. this is a time for me to be strong for my children. be strong for patti. and this is also a time for patti and me to get home so we can explain to our kids-- our babies amy and annie-- what happened, what this means and where we go from here. >> sreenivasan: blagojevich is due to report to prison on february 16. his predecessor as governor, republican george ryan, is serving a six and a half year prison term also for corruption. former penn state assistant football coach jerry sandusky was jailed today. he was accused of new counts of sexually abusing boys but could not post bail. sandusky already faced 40 counts. there was also word that bernie fine, a former assistant basketball coach at syracuse university will not face charges of molesting boys in the 1980s. a prosecutor said the statute of limitations has run out. prosecutors in philadelphia have dropped their long-running fight to execute mumia abu jamal.
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the black panther was sentenced to death for murdering a white police officer, daniel faulkner, during a traffic stop. abu jamal maintained he was a victim of racism and in 2008 a federal appeals court ordered a new sentencing hear. today, the district attorney said he wants to avoid more years of appeals. >> there's never been any doubt in my mind that mumia abu jamal shot and killed officer faulkner. and i believe that the appropriate sentence was handed down by the jury of his peers in 1982. while abu jamal will no longer be facing the death penalty, he will remain behind bars for the rest of his life. and that is where he belongs. >> reporter: over the years, a free mumia movement has grown up around abu ya ja mall, including dozens of celebrities, amnesty international and supporters worldwide. in russia, anger over last sunday's parliamentary elections led to a third night of unrest. police detained scores of demonstrators in moscow as
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several hundred people protested. they condemn add ruling party of prime minister vladimir putin and claimed voter fraud. earlier former soviet leader mikhail gorbachev urged an annulment in favor of a new vote. it was another deadly day in afghanistan. 19 people were killed when a roadside bomb tore through a mini bus. it was traveling through a part of helmand province in the south known to be a taliban stronghold. meanwhile, in kabul, funerals for held for some of the 56 people killed in yesterday's suicide blast at a shiite shrine. and president hamid karzai visited some of the wounded at a hospital today. he vowed to confront pakistan about the attack after a pakistani militant group claimed responsibility. pearl harbor survivors gathered in hawaii today to mark the japanese attack that plunged the united states into world war ii. it was 70 years ago today >> yesterday, december 7 1941 a date which will live in infamy.
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united states of america was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the empire of japan. >> sreenivasan: the second world war was already in its third year when japanese warplanes swooped down on the u.s. pacific fleet at dawn that morning. the surprise attack sank or severely damaged 21 ships and killed nearly 2,400 americans. today, as every year, several thousand people attended the ceremonies at the site overlooking the sunken battleship u.s.s. arizona. >> you the survivors as well as those who were lost earned with your blood, with your sacrifice a legacy you have passed on to those who have followed. >> sreenivasan: this year's commemoration was the last for the pearl harbor survivor's association. the group is disbanding as its numbers steadily dwindle. the association's vice president mal middlesworth appealed to future generations to keep the memories alive. >> let no author, historian or politician attempt to rewrite the history of what happened
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here 70 years ago. you sitting in the audience must be the guardians of our truth. >> sreenivasan: the japanese foreign minister voiced "deep emotion" today about the anniversary. but he hailed the u.s. - japanese alliance that grew out of the war. trading on wall street was relatively subdued today. the dow jones industrial average gained 46 points to close at 12196. the nasdaq fell a fraction of a point to close at 2649.
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those are the day's major stories. now back to judy. >> woodruff: and to the debate of the new u.s. financial watchdog agency. president obama's pick to lead it faces a critical test vote. a senate showdown >> woodruff: a senate showdown is looming tomorrow over who will lead the new consumer financial protection bureau. the agency was created under the financial reform law-- the so- called "dodd-frank act"-- to oversee mortgages, credit cards and other forms of consumer lending. and last july... >> i look forward to working with richard cordray as this bureau stands up on behalf of consumers all across the country. >> woodruff: ...president obama nominated a former ohio state attorney general to be the agency's first director. consumer advocates had favored elizabeth warren, who helped assemble the agency. but the harvard professor-- now running for the u.s. senate in massachusetts-- was fiercely opposed by the financial industry.
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and back in may, 44 of the 47 senate republicans wrote to the president, with several requests, including for the bureau to have a board of directors instead of a single administrator. alabama senator richard shelby raised the issue at a hearing, tuesday. >> this massive new bureaucracy was designed by the drafters of dodd-frank to be virtually unaccountable to the american people. before we spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a new federal government agency, i believe we should ensure that it can be held accountable for its actions. >> woodruff: but while that hearing was under way, the president was in osawatomie, kansas, warning against further delay in putting somebody in charge of the new agency. >> does anyone here think the problem that led to our financial crisis was too much oversight of mortgage lenders or debt collectors? of course not. every day we go without a consumer watchdog in place is
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another day when a student, or a senior citizen, or member of our armed forces could be tricked into a loan they can't afford something that happens all the time. >> woodruff: white house officials have been working to win over republican senators in seven states-- alaska, indiana, iowa, maine, nevada, tennessee and utah-- in a bid to get cordray confirmed. that remains a tall order: the administration will need the backing of 60 senators to get past a filibuster and bring the cordray nomination to a final vote. joining us now to discuss the cord ray nomination are democratic senator sherrod brown of ohio, a member of the banking committee. and republican senator kay bailey hutchison of texas.
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senator brown, why is this so important to have and why is richard cordray the right person to lead it? >> i probably know richard cordray better than any member of the senate. i knew hem when he was state fresh ruhr, attorney general and now at the bureau. he is qualified... imminently qualified and that's what republicans democrat and democrats alike including the former republican senator from ohio mike dewine, now the attorney general of it and other have endorsed him and banks and credit unions. it matters because we know what happened in the financial crisis and we need a consumer cop on the beat. we need somebody responsive, somebody that will stand up to wall street, somebody that will stand up for consumers and why would we not do that and want a good strong independent voice representing people who have been hurt by the this financial crisis? >> woodruff: senator hutchison, why is that the wrong argument and why is cord ray not the right person?
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>> we are not arguing about mr. cordray. i think he does have qualifications if we can get this structure set so there would be an accountability in this agency, which is there is not. it's unprecedented the power that was put in this agency and it doesn't even go through the appropriations process. there is no oversight. they just have had v the ability to go into the federal reserve and take up to 10% of the federal reserve's revenues. well, that's stunning. we need to have an agency that is run by a head... a board that appoints the director and then that director has to respond to the board. the other thing, judy, is we are so worried about the overkill in this. we have potential regulators in the banking and lending industries now. that has been cleaned up. we have the controller.
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we have the fed, we have the f.d.i.c.. another layer of bureaucracy is going to cause consumers more and it's not going to be more protective. >> woodruff: senator brown, what about her first point that this is an unprecedented amount of power, that this is someone who would give no one else oversight of this bureau. >> unprecedented amount of power doesn't really make sense. the consumer bureau today was in cleveland announcing... happened to be in my state announcing new rules for making credit card applications more clear and more concise and simpler for customers. that's not unprecedented power. what's unprecedented, judy, is i asked the senate a story several months ago, has this ever happened where one political party has opposed a nominee solely because they don't like that agency over which he... which he will run and the senate historian said that has never
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happened. accountability is not accountability to wall street but to the public and in many ways my colleagues here that oppose the whole idea of consumer protection moved the goalpost. they first said they wanted it not independent so we agreed to put hit in the fed. then they said anybody but elizabeth warren so we put... so the president appointed richard cordray. and then they said we don't want the president to do a recess appointment so he didn't. and now they're still opposing it and they said they'd oppose anybody because they don't like the agency itself. well, maybe that's because the agency will stand up to special interests more than my colleagues want them to. >> woodruff: before i ask you about the other point from senator hutchison about too many layers, senator hutchison, what about the points that senator brown just made? the republicans have continued in his words to move the goalpost on this nomination? >> well, of course the president should never make an appointment that bypasses congress and he's done it on several occasions and
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it's wrong and that really bypasses the accountability that we're looking for in this agency that we don't have. we tried to fix this bill when it was going through congress and president some parameters around this agency. but, in fact, there is no oversight on this agency. they set their own budget without any oversight going through the appropriations process in congress. and they have the ability to tell the fed you have to give us up to 10%-- which is $600 million-- we've already given this agency $150 million. they have now asked for an increase to $329 million. now keep in mind, judy, that the areas that sherrod is talking about are already regulated. >> woodruff: well, let me stop you there and ask senator brown about that. senator brown, what about her point? she's repeated the point that this is an agent they has the
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right to go in and take a lot of appropriations out of the federal reserve. >> well, they're not going to take that kind of money. that's... that's the kind of thing is a straw man argument. this went through the whole legislative process. we needed 60 votes to pass this bill, there were all kinds of amendments that were considered, conservative members of the senate who kind of... were kind of close to wall street and then really want the consumer bureau, had their chance to amend it. went through the whole process just two years ago, got more than 60 sloots out of 100 so it passed with strong bipartisan majorities and now that it's the law, on behalf of wall street they want to weaken the rules and emasculate the agency. this is a consumer agency. they're not going to use their power to destroy. they're going to use their power to protect consumers and use their power to protect investors and use their power to protect taxpayers and that's what i want them there for. >> woodruff: senator hutchison, why aren't most of the republicans in the senate
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prepared simply to allow an up vote on richard corps devil ray? >> because we want to get the changes to the structure of this amorphous body before we put a head that has the powers of one person, one dictator who doesn't even respond to anyone except the president of the united states who agreed with this approach. you know, shared said over oh, they're never going to ask for $600 million. you this agency has been in place for less than a year and they have already asked for half that, $329 million for another big federal agency. and this isn't wall street. it's not wall street that is causing us to want to put parameters around this agency. we don't want the overregulation of banks and companies that are
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overregulated already with another layer that's going to cost consumers more. >> brown: did you mean, senator hutchison, to use the term "dictator"? >> well, it's one person... and i'm not talking about him personally. i'm just saying one person who answers to no one except the president of the united states. it is unprecedented. i'd like to ask the senate historian have you ever seen an agency that was created that could take money directly from the fed that did not have a board overseaing it, all the other regulators do. >> woodruff: well, let me interrupt you there. senator brown, is that accurate from your perspective? that this would be the first bureau, agency of its kind without any board oversight and no one to answer? >> no, most of these regulatory bodies don't have five people or seven people commissions. some do; some don't. so it's far from unprecedented to say he has dictatorial powers, the president of united states appoints a secretary of state, a secretary of the
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treasury, secretary of commerce. do they all have dictatorial powers? no, they answer to the president of the united states. if this consumer protection bureau chief oversteps his bounds and the public's really unhappy or even the banks they think they're being treated unfairly, they appeal to the president of the united states and my guess is if rich cordray did any of those things that they prospectively accuse him of he would be forced out by the president. so we elect the president of the united states, the election wasn't contested, he clearly decisively one in 2008, he ought to be able to put in this director or another director or a federal judge that used to be just a matter of course here. but now it's 60 votes for everything and we just... as kay said, all we want is an up-or-down vote. don't filibuster. let ma a majority of the senate decide if richard cordray who everybody says is qualified in both sides of the aisle, let him have an up-or-down vote. if he doesn't get 51, that's our problem and his problem and the president's problem.
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don't do a filibuster on this. >> you know, he's raising the to the level of a new cabinet agency and we don't need a new cabinet agency for consumer protection. that is already in the office of the controller, the s.e.c., the f.d.i.c., the new savings and loan regulators, the credit union regulators. we've got consumer regulators. we don't need another cabinet agency that answers to no one. >> woodruff: and we are going to have to leave it there. we've heard you loud and clear. senator kay bailey hutchison, senator sherrod brown. >> thank you, judy. >> a land dispute at the high court with routes in the early 1800s and to gwen ifill. >> ifill: montana's rivers are pristine and iconic but they are also at the center of a property rights dispute that went all the way to the supreme court today.
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a lower court ruled that the power company p.p.o. montana owes the state $53 million in back payments, essentially rent for its use of river beds for hydroelectric plants and dams. who owns the river beds? the state? the federal government or private owners? the answer to that question could have broad impact throughout the american west as well as the rest of the country. marcia coyle was in the courtroom for today's arguments and she joins us now. >> so this started as a challenge for public education funding? >> right, a group of parents who felt that montana's educational system was underfunded, brought the first lawsuit against the power companies. they ultimately were thrown out of court and the state stepped in to carry the lawsuit forward. >> ifill: why is there any disagreement about who owns the land? it seems like the government is always owned by the land, the them? >> this is interesting that it's happening more than 100 years
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after montana entered the union. but it hasn't been litigated much. what happens is when the territory became a state the rule was that the united states gave title to the state of the navigable waters in that state. and there hasn't been much litigation over how to define navigable. there are a couple of supreme court decisions they date to the 1800s but the justices today really had to struggle to find what's the right test for what is navigable. >> ifill: why does it matter whether something is navigable? and by navigable i assume you mean unobstructd? that a commerce could happen on this river? >> right. well if the river is navigable then the state does have title to the river beds and the banks of the river. if it's not navigable it belongs to the united states. the united states retains title. the power company here has haddams and hydroelectric
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projects on the missouri river, the madison river in wisconsin. some of those dams are almost a hundred years old. it was only until this lawsuit began that montana sort of realized that, hey, we would like to own... we believe we own the river beds underneath these projects. >> ifill: therefore you owe us for the money you've been making off it. >> they have thousands of leases out for uses of there rivers in some states, but montana did not for these power projects. the projects had... had arranged leases with the united states and private land owners in order to raise the dams. >> ifill: where do lewis and clark come? it seems they played a role. >> the court is that the rivers were navigable at the time montana entered the union so both sides have been using lewis
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and clark's journals of their expedition up the missouri river in particular in the early 1800s. the power company claims that the lower court here made a critical ere there are no deciding whether the missouri river and the other two rivers were navigable. that it focused on the whole river instead of on sections of the river. the power plant, for example, has a project on a section of the river that includes the great falls. and that's a 17-mile stretch that everybody agrees is impossible and thus not navigable. lewis and clark when they arrived at that point had to do a portage. they had to take land around the great falls and they even dispute both sides how long that took. the power company claims it took 33 days. montana claims it took much less time than that. so the power company is saying you have to look at sections of the river in order to determine what's navigable.
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>> ifill: how do you do that? how would you... assuming that the power company was able to win this. they're talking about basically slicing up ownership of different chunks of the river. >> exactly. and chief justice roberts raised this concern. he said... he could see a lot of problems if the court started drawing lines by chopping up portions of the river. for example, he said, part of the river that's navigable now may not be navigable in the summer. and it would just create a lot of difficulties. but the power company claims and the united states argued as well here today that you have to look at what's a substantial obstacle on the river. and waterfall, rapids, those are substantial and long-lasting obstacles. on the other hand, montana says no, the rule for over 100 years has been does the river... is the river a continuous highway of commerce?
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so if a portion of the river is obstructed, that doesn't matter. it's... if the portion is still part of a river that acts as a continuous highway of commerce, that river is navigable. >> ifill: you had two former bush-era solicitors general arguing against each other today. >> we did. that's unusual and really good arguments. paul clement represented the power company and gregory gar represented the state of montana. they are among the best supreme court advocates in the country. >> ifill: did that make a difference in the way the arguments were received? >> i don't think in terms of reception. i think the justices appreciate good lawyers and these lawyers had answers for every question and i think that always helps the justices when they have to reach a final decision. and there's a lot at stake here. 26 states have filed an amicus brief supported montana and they say they have, again, thousands of leases out for existing uses of their rivers.
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everything from boat ramps to mineral development. and they worry that if what they believe is the correct rule, what montana says, that all that will be jeopardized. >> ifill: so they're anxious for someone to establish a precedent somewhere in all of this. >> absolutely. >> ifill: marcia coyle of "national law journal," thanks so much. >> my pleasure. >> brown: and now to sere yaus yah and a presidential disclaimer amid more violence. after nine months, the uprising against the syrian government grinds on, deadlier by the day. but today, in an interview with abc's barbara walters, syrian president bashar al assad denied there was any popular unrest. at the same time, he insisted he's had no role in the ongoing military crackdown. >> they are not my forces, they are military forces belong to the government. >> okay, but you are the government. >> i don't own them i am president i don't own the
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country so they are not my forces. >> no but you have to give the order? >> no, no, no. >> we don't kill our people, nobody kill no government in the world. kill its people, unless it's led by crazy person. >> do you feel guilty? >> i did my best to protect the people, so i cannot feel guilty when you do your best. you feel sorry for the lives that has been lost. but you don't feel guilty, when you don't kill people. >> brown: as that interview aired, new web video purportedly showed victims of new violence in the city of homs. tortured and mutilated bodies were piled in the streets, after an especially brutal spasm of sectarian killing and regime-led attacks. in washington, state department spokesman mark toner denounced assad's claims. >> just from what took place in the interview, appeared utterly disconnected with the reality going on in his country and the brutal repression being carried
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out against syrian pepple. it's either disconnection, disregard, or crazy. what is clear is syrian security carrying out a clear campaign against protestors rests with assad and his cronies. >> brown: in fact, the united nations now estimates more than 4,000 people mostly protesters against the regime have been killed in syria. amid the fierce repression, more and more syrian soldiers have defected to what is being called the free syrian army and there are growing fears of civil war. from the outside, the united states, the european union, the arab league and turkey have all instituted tough sanctions against assad's government. but the embattled leader still has allies-- among them, china,
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russia, iran and hezbollah, the shi-ite militant group based in lebanon. its leader, sheikh hassan nasrallah, spoke in beirut yesterday. >> we support the reforms in syria and we stand with the regime against the resistance movement. there are some people who do not want reforms, security and stability in syria, and neither civil peace nor dialogue. >> brown: meanwhile, u.s. diplomatic pressure against the assad regime continued. as secretary of state clinton met with syrian opposition leaders yesterday in geneva. >> obviously, a democratic transition includes more than removing the assad regime. it means setting syria on the path of the rule of law and protecting the universal rights of all citizens regardless of sect or ethnicity or gender. >> brown: and the u.s. ambassador to syria, robert ford, returned to damascus today.
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he had left in october after threats to his security. deborah, thanks for joining us. what was their reaction to assad's comments from people you were able to talk to today and who did his intended audience seem to be? >> i got more reactions from people outside syria than in syria. people in syria really didn't notice much. i think that his audience is actually not an international audience but a dough midwest i can audience. i think important thing for assad is that that interview will play on syrian state t.v. he was important enough, legitimate enough for barbara walters and abc television to come all the way to damascus to see him. barbara walt everys interviewed his father, that's why they wanted her to do it. and i think the way those comments will be played on syrian t.v. is exactly what syrian t.v. has been saying all along which the president repeated. these are armed gangs that are
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part of the uprising, it is... there are regime forces who are being killed. he's not responsible for the deaths. it may have seemed an odd interview on the outside, but inside it will play to his supporters and for him that's what counts. >> brown: now the big question seems to be to what the situation is veering towards a real civil war situation. how does it look to you from there? >> i know a that people are talking about civil war. let's keep in mind that the sectarian killing and what has happened in homs this week has been horrific. but it's confined to one town. this is the most sectarian mixed town in all of syria. this is also a place where we now have army defectors who have found a haven in some neighborhoods inside homs. up until last week the real violence in hopltz was taking place in three or four neighborhoods. what's happened is it's spread to the entire city. there are tensions in other cities, certainly in damascus
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there are, in aleppo there are. but nothing like what we are seeing in homs. syrians will tell you both inside the country and out that they don't see the country sliding into a civil war. they say that's not what this is about. this is a fight between regime supporters and anti-regime forces. and it is just a different dynamic on the street. homs is bad, no doubt about that. and we are sliding towards an armed rebellion phenomenon homs but it's not the case in the rest of the country. >> brown: and what are you seeing or what can you tell about the impact of economic and other sanctions and pressures from outside. does it seem to be having an impact in syria? >> you know, i have not been inside the country since october. i am calling in and i think these latest rounds of sanctions from the arab league has shocked syria. syria has always seen itself as
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the beating hard of arab nationalism. to have sanctions put on by other arab states was... put people into a tail spin in syria. the way you can see the sanctions taking effect is how the currency is working. it's lost 30% of its value. and that is changing dramatically over the last couple of weeks. think about this. all of a sudden credit cards disappear, everything has to be done in cash. your syrian currency is losing its value. let's say you sell a home and you haven't bought a new one, everyday you hold back you are losing money. people are upset about that. businesses can no longer buy anything on credit. whatever enough your shop, that's all you're going to get. you can't import things in from dubai because you've got no way to pay for them. these very tough sanctions and you are starting to see people, when i call into syria, people are complaining. they are beginning to feel these sanctions. brown briefly, deborah, we
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reported on secretary clinton's meeting with the opposition leader. yesterday ambassador ford coming back. does it look like a stepped-up american diplomatic effort there? >> i think it does. these were all signals to say that we are stepping up a diplomatic campaign. the vice president was just in istanbul. this has now become the capital for the opposition. you have the free syrian army and refugees in the south. you have more and more opposition members heading to istanbul. it's the safest city for them that keeps them close to syria. with this meeting in geneva, with the u.s. secretary of state it's only the second one she's had with the opposition. it's not exactly recognition but it is getting very close. >> brown: deborah amos of npr speaking to us from beirut. thanks so much. >> thank you. >> woodruff: we'll be back shortly with the discovery of a planet that just might be like earth. but first, this is pledge week on pbs. this break allows your public
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>> woodruff: finally tonight, scientists on the hunt for an earth like planet. newshour correspondent spencer michels has the story. >> reporter: more than 20 years ago, space scientist william borucki dreamed up a plan to explore our galaxy to find the extent of life, if there is any beyond the earth. it was a daunting and expensive challenge. this week and $600 million later at a conference of his peers in mountain view, california, borucki and nasa announced they had found the first planet in the habitable zone. that means, what's being called the "goldilocks" planet, is just right, orbiting its star at the proper distance to have water, necessary for life. similar to earth, though bigger, scientists say the temperature averages about 72 degrees. 600 light years away, it orbits
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its own sun every 290 days. borucki and his team found it using the kepler space telescope, which was launched three years ago and remains in orbit around the sun. he calls it a giant camcorder, which was designed specifically to look for planets where life might be possible, and at the stars they orbit-- 150,000 of them, like our own sun. >> the mission was designed to do this job. it has no other purpose. >> reporter: i talked with him at nasa's ames facility on the grounds of naval air station moffet field about how kepler can detect a planet. >> we look at each star to see, did something dim the star? did something move across the star to dim it. if it did dim the star a lot, it's a big planet. just a little bit, it's a small planet, maybe like earth. it's focused on one set of stars in a part of the milky way where there's a huge number of stars, and it just takes a photo every six seconds. >> reporter: scientists have found more than 2,000 candidate
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planets in the two years they've been looking and 48 that they think could hold life. but this latest one, kepler 22b, as it's called, is the most promising so far. was there ever an ah-ha movment, when you knew you had found something really important? >> yes, there was. it's a feeling of utter satisfaction. we've worked for 20 years to get to this moment, to see this data. people said it just couldn't be done. it was just impossible. so it was very satisfying to see the data that says, yes, we're getting the answers that we... we have worked so hard for all these years. >> reporter: borucki and his colleagues can't see kepler 22b; it's too small and too far away. the fastest modern rocket ship would take 24 million years to get there. scientists also know little about the atmosphere or what the planet is made of; it could be
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more like gassy neptune than earth. but they can interpret data. what can you do with this knowledge? >> what we're trying to do with this knowledge is we're building a picture, and the picture is how many stars in all the galaxy have planets something like yours where life could be possible? if the answer is many, then there's probably a lot of life in our galaxy, and the next instruments that get built to look at the atmospheres, we look at just the close-by stars cause most of them will have planets, so you won't have to look very far. >> reporter: scientists are taking the discovery of a potentially habitable planet seriously, even if it is 600 light years away. at seti, search for extraterrestrial intelligence, they say they will follow up on nasa's discoveries. seti operates a bank of 42 small radio telescopes, from a site near a fine fishing stream in northern california.
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its director for research, jill tarter, says those telescopes will now focus in on kepler 22b. >> well, that's certainly one place that we want to look because we want to ask the questions and perhaps find the answer, "does anybody live there?" and this particular kepler 22b is the smallest, most earth like planet of those that we know to be in the habitable zone, so it's a clear winner in terms of us pointing our telescopes there. >> reporter: how do they attempt this? >> we're looking for radio signals that appear to be engineered. that don't look natural, but look like someone generated them in order to attract our attention. spencer, you-re looking for life, intelligent life? >> we're looking for the technologies, right, and if we find the signals that are engineered, then we'll infer that at least at some point, that we're technologists. >> reporter: and does nasa's borucki also think there may be life out there? >> i think there's a very high possibility of life, but i'm
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speculating. up to now i've been telling you our facts, these are the measurements we made. this is the difference between science and speculation. >> reporter: meanwhile, the search for more planets in the habitable zone goes on, and so does the search for ways to figure out what's going on in places scientists can't even see. >> brown: and, again, the major developments of the day. the nation's health secretary stopped a morning-after pill from being sold over the counter to girls younger than age 17. former illinois governor rod blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison for trying to sell the appointment to president obama's senate seat, among other crimes, and syrian president assad denied ordering a brutal crackdown on protesters. he told abc that no government kills its own people unless it
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is less by a "crazy person." online, we update egypt's elections. hari sreenivasan has a preview. hari? >> sreenivasan: charles senate of global post reports on how egyptians view the latest step toward democracy. that's on our world page. we look at a new study showing the largest-ever jump in the number of children attending charter schools. that's on the rundown. also there, a story about the federal reserve pushing back on news reports about big banks that got loans with very favorable terms during the financial crisis. and that and more is on our web site, newshour,.pbs.org. >> woodruff: and on thursday we have a look at the occupy movement playing out in three american cities. san diego, oklahoma city and boise idaho. i'm judy woodruff. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. see you online here tomorrow evening, thank you and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
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